Thursday, December 28, 2006

about Saddam

The Vatican joined Human Rights Watch today in calling for clemency for Saddam, saying that executing him would simply be responding to crime with more crime. I suspect there's not really much chance this will have any effect, and that come jan 31 2007, saddam hussein will be dead.

As I understand it, average evangelicals believe he will experience "eternal conscious torment" in hell. George Macdonald would argue that he'll eventually repent and get out of hell. I haven't read Brian Mclaren's latest book, but it is my understanding that he would argue against the eternal consious torment position.

I wonder what the average Muslim belief is as to Saddam's experiences after death?

I honestly wonder how *anyone* can ascribe to the eternal consious suffering position and at the same time claim to experience communion and love for and with and from god.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Quote of the week

This from Byron's post Fearless Service III. For me, it captured perfectly and instantly what it feels like to be human

We are all dying, giving birth astride a grave.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Blog Tag

I've been tagged in a game of blog tag by Helen Middenhall of Love is the Most Excellent Way (although I know her from conversation at the edge, which is closed for a week for the holidays). The way the game works is if you get tagged, you have to post five things about yourself that people probably don't know. Here's my five.

1. I used to spend time playing the guitar and singing, and even wrote some songs quite a while ago.

2. I was the acting associate manager of a domino's pizza store for a little over a year back in the 90's, and we were held up at gun point and all bound with duct tape. Fortunately, no one got hurt. They never found the bad guys or the money.

3. I have a 4.0 grade point average over my most recent 60 credits (I can hardly believe it). I'm expanding my undergrad degree from bachelor of arts in psychology to bachelor of arts in psychology and international studies.

4. My favorite type of schoolwork is mathematics--I find it beautiful and orderly and it just works really well for me.

5. I've travelled to 25 countries in my (still relatively short) lifetime.

(I'm tagging Jim at Doable Evangelism, Jonathan at The Nautical File, Paul at People Against Fundamentalism, Banzai at The Banzai Chronicles, R at Dragons Fly and Monkey Tea, Megan at Bag End and Justin at Ramblin' Again)

Stop the execution of Saddam Hussein!

Human Rights Watch today called for Iraq to reverse it's decision to execute Saddam Hussien (scheduled to be implemented in less than a month). Rick Dicker, director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch, was quoted as saying

Imposing the death penalty, indefensible in any case, is especially wrong after such unfair proceedings. That a judicial decision was first announced by Iraq’s national security advisor underlines the political interference that marred Saddam Hussein’s trial.

This seems to me to be a case where Christians could try to take steps to stop something which their founder also stopped at least once! Jesus words about the death penalty, if I remember correctly, run along the lines of the idea that we should only execute someone if we ourselves are free of guilt.

Moreover, would you want to be executed after a mockery of a trial like the one Mr. Hussein underwent?

Your thoughts?

Sunday, December 24, 2006

update on wayne and calvary fellowship mountlake terrace

Two weeks ago I posted here about my experience with a charity working party from Calvary Fellowship Mountlake Terrace and Pastor Wayne. In that post, I complained a little about ... proselytization by Wayne.
So I wanted to continue the story. Helen at CatE suggested emailing Wayne and just letting him know that I had felt a little uncomfortable with his multiple invitations to his church in spite of my repeated rebuttals. So I did. And then a very strange thing happened. Wayne emailed back this totally normal, humble reply in which he apologized. I was kind of astounded, as most of my experience with "Christian leaders" has been that they aren't about to apologize for coming on too strongly. Thankyou Wayne. You rock.
So as it turns out, my best friend Walter, who originally invited me to the work party, also invited me to go with him and his wife to the Christmas Eve service at Calvary Fellowship. And since I didn't really have any better options, being home alone and all, I decided to go. Just kind of a way of staying out of trouble, if nothing else...although that doesn't really work, since I generally don't like the tenor of my own thoughts when I am sitting in a Sunday Morning Church® service, which this more or less was.
There was, however, an incident which made me like Wayne even more. Before the service, I went up to say "Hey". And he said "Hey", and "How's it going--good to see you again." And I said "fairly ######--my wife and children are on a beach in Port Macquarie right now, while I rot in this dark cold raining lonely hell". So anyway, a man and a lady came up to us, and Wayne knew the man, and he asked him "So, is this your mother?" And the man said "nope, it's my girlfriend". Oops. So after they moved on, I told Wayne how that had happened to me at Megan's cousin's wedding, when I turned around and asked Aunt Meredith (who is, by the way, one of the most delightful people I've ever met) if John, who is actually her brother, and who was sitting next to her, was her son? Like "So is John your son?" Oops. Poor Megan turned six shades of pink. And then I told Wayne how I had gone afterwards and apologized, and lovely Meredith had been fine with it. And here's the kewlest thing. Wayne picked right up on that, which I hadn't at all intended, and he said "That's a great idea--I'm going to go apologize right now." Very kewl.

Alas, I should have known better about going to the Christmas Eve service. As is usual, my thoughts were mostly negative and confused. Some things that bothered/confused me:

1. They sang a bunch of Christmas carols with lyrics that just didn't work for me. The lyrics talked about Jesus being the savior, his glory over the whole earth, his causing oppresion to end, the wonder and beauty of experiencing his love and joy all around the world, and so forth. You know--typical Christmas hymns. Meanwhile, I was sitting there thinking that 25000 children will die today from starvation. Most of the people sitting in that service probably spent upwards of $1000 on Christmas presents, which would buy ... for instance, needed antiretroviral medications for 17 HIV positive children in the developing world for all of next year. Where is all the love, joy, peace, salvation, glory, etc which Jesus is supposed to have brought? When millions (yes, millions!) of children have HIV/AIDS? When 25000 children die every day from starvation? When armed conflict is the modus operandi of international relations? When .... well, clearly I could go on. Name your poison. I tend to always experience this oversized disconnect when I sit in Sunday Morning Church® services. It's a big part of why I almost never go to them anymore. Pastor Wayne asked god to bless and protect us as we do our family celebrations and partake of our feasts tomorrow. Mainstream christianity is no longer counter cultural--it's become this completey bastardized mezcla of Jesus/the gospels/the bible and typical culture within our country--so that it is fairly easy to be a christian and pursue the "American Dream", which of course, implies the "Developing World Nightmare".
stepping off soap box now. See. This is why I just shouldn't (there I go, shoulding on myself) attend Sunday Morning Church® services. It accomplishes nothing good, and actually creates a lot of negative vibes.

Christmas eve video

I really like Sarah McLachlan's voice, and this song, although it doesn't quite acccurately describe my situation, very much captures my feelings this christmas eve. E'joy.

Saturday, December 23, 2006


I honestly can't decide if the only thing worse than being in las vegas is playing blackjack all night at EQC, or if the only thing worse than playing blackjack all night at EQC is being in las vegas.

U.S. Worst ... uh, that is, West Airlines cancelled my lovely 9AM flight out of Las Vegas on this past Monday morning because their stupid plane almost never made it out of calgary earlier because of mechanical problems. The stupid ... bitch (I hope I got this right. Megan's always reminding me: guys are ########, and women are bitches--cause I tend to get confused as to which word goes with which gender...) behind the counter for U.S. Worst was the worst. Here's my reconstruction of our conversation:

Benjamin: So do I at least get a $200 voucher for future travel since I'm having to stay in this city for another FIVE hours?!?

Lady: (with attitude) No! We have the right to cancel your flight and get you out on another flight the same day! No one else is getting a voucher! Why do you think you should get a voucher?!? We're giving you this (piece of crap almost worthless) $5 food voucher for the airport (which *doesn't* cover alcohol, so it's really basically useless!) so you can get some food while you wait (for FIVE FREAKING hours!).

Benjamin: God I hate this city. This city is such a hellhole of a place. There's no place I'd rather not be more. (now did I get that double negative right? reminds me of a funny I saw in a book at University Bookstore a couple months ago. It was in the form of statment and response:
Statement: There are lots of instances in the English language where a double negative equals a positive, but there are no known instances where a double positive equals a negative. .......

Response: Yeah, right
(am I allowed to jump up and down levels like this? I mean they do it in Arabian Nights, but whoever wrote that is probably a better writer than me))

Lady: (with more attitude (not that I don't have some attitude)) Well, we're from this city, and we think it's a very nice city, and I'd prefer it if you'd just keep your opinion to yourself!

Benjamin: Well, I guess it could be worse. We could be stuck in Bagdad or Tiajuana. Although at this point Tiajuana doesn't really seem all that bad....

Thankyou for letting me rant. I don't know anyone from Las Vegas at all. I can't imagine any scenario where a person could both be reasonably intelligent AND like Las Vegas.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Friday Video: Pachelbel Rant

Today's video comes via Helen's Conversation at the Edge, one of my very favorite blogs. Actually, I stole the idea of Friday Videos from Helen. Her web site is a place for fascinating conversation between Christians and atheists. Thankyou Helen!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

dragon virgin birth and self pity

In the news today: In a process called parthenogenosis, a female Komodo Dragon at the London Zoo has fertilized herself and is expected to give birth on or around Christmas Day, having never had sex with a male Komodo Dragon--a solstice virgin dragon birth. This process has been seen in smaller reptiles before, but never in these largest of reptiles. For a slide show of our very own Seattle Woodland Park Zoo Komodo Dragons, click here. Aren't they gorgeous?

So I am feeling rather sorry for myself, all alone at Christmas time, and the faith group which I would have like to attend tonite, Monkfish Abbey, is not meeting because some of them, including the abbess, are participating in the Fremont Arts Council Winter Solstice Feast. Poor poor poor poor poor poor me. Maybe I can find some nice fundamentalist kool aid or some polonium 210 somewhere.

Monday, December 18, 2006

A time for everything

My friend Eva preached one of the most brilliant sermons I've ever heard on the passage from Eccesiastes about there being a time for everything. It was brilliant because she focused on "a time to hate" and talked about the excellence, necessity, and christianity of hatred.
Here's the negative half of the passage

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: ...a time to die, ... a time to uproot, a time to kill, ... a time to tear down, ... a time to weep, ... a time to mourn, ... a time to scatter stones, ... a time to refrain from embracing, ... a time to give up, ... a time to throw away, ... a time to tear, ... a time to be silent, a time to hate, ... a time for war.

My friend Helen Mildenhall asked on her blog "Do you have any traditions you observe at this time of year?" I thought for only a moment and realized that the main tradition I observe at this time of year is to feel and think in even more depressed and negative ways than I normally do. My friend Anuj said to me a couple days ago that it is his perception that I am a fairly negative person. I told him that this is also my perception, and I try not to feel too negative towards myself for being too negative. hehe. Some people just see the dark sides of things. It's easy and comfortable for me to do this--it comes as naturally to me as walking or ... reading and writing. The trick, I think, is to increase my skill in the area of loving people, and loving myself, without having to completely wrest my personality--to somehow grow in my ability to see the good and to embrace hope in order to balance out--not to destroy, but to balance out--my darkishness.

Here's George's entry from Diary of an Old Soul for December 16

The life that hath not willed itself to be,
Must clasp the life that willed, and be at peace;
Or, like a leaf wind-blown, through chaos flee;
A life-husk into which the demons go,
And work their will, and drive it to and fro;
A thing that neither is, nor yet can cease,
Which uncreation can alone release.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Friday videos

Two really long videos today

Sit Down for Change. Stand Up for Peace!

I'm out of town right now, but apparently there are 1 million people without electrical power in the greater puget sound area, and some of my friends in seattle have been told that it will be several days before their power is restored. All this after a huge wind and rain storm last night with 90 mile per hour gusts. Yikesola. I'm glad my lovely family is away in Oz, so they don't have to be there in this while I'm *not* there. I'm kinda sad I missed it. I remember in St Kitts in 1998, Laurel and Matt and me going out and dancing on the quayside in the enormous rain which flooded the city and caused enormous damage, which we as a crew then went out and worked for three days to help clean up.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Have increasingly come to realize over the last week or so that being married to Megan mega rocks, and ... being single, back in the day, pretty much sucked. One of the worst things about being single, which I never realized when I was single, is that variable length time period between climbing into bed with the lights out intending to fall asleep and actually falling asleep. When one is single, one is somehow utterly and enormously alone during that time period.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

tax dollars for churches to evangelize prisoners

What do arkansas, alabama, virginia, colorado, florida, kansas, missouri, south carolina, and texas have in common? ... Well, they are all red states. All but Kansas and Colorado had educational segregration required by law before Brown v. Board of Education. And all their attorneys general have signed amici curiae briefs in support of the appelant in Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, et. al. v. Prison Fellowship Ministries, et. al.
Well--it's related the story today from the New York Times entitled "Religion for a Captive Audience, Paid for by Tax Dollars". It seems that under (surprise surprise) Bush and co, there has been a proliferation of religion based rehabilitation programs in prisons across the U.S., all paid for with tax dollars. And it seems that courts have been finding lots of the organization running these programs guilty of unconstitutionally using their tax funds to "evangelize". However, they generally just get a slap on the wrist and no more money. A court in Iowa, however, finally said "enough is enough" and has ordered Prison Fellowship Ministries to pay back US$1.5 Million, saying that "this all added up to an unconstitutional use of taxpayer money for religious indoctrination" and that "the constitutional violations were serious and clearly foreseeable." And what exactly is Prison Fellowship Ministries? It's the organization founded by right wing evangelical commentator and watergate criminal Charles Colson. Funnily enough, Colson spent his watergate related prison time in a prison in alabama, whose attorney general is now helping the organization Colson founded.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

monkfish, calvary fellowship, and HHJJ

(a monkfish)
I had a lovely time at ThursdayPM/Monkfish Abbey. I felt very … safe, and understood, and … familiar. Brilliant. Like the fact that such a time/place exists makes me lean toward believing in god and that she loves me.

On the other hand … I’ve made a committment to do something service oriented every week for these 7 weeks while my family is gone–kind of an attempt on my part to stay out of trouble. So today I went with my excellent friend Walter to help out at the monthly … thing where guys from the church get together and go out and do service for people in the community. Oh–it’s a thing that they do at Calvary Fellowship in Mountlake Terrace.

I almost cried when Andy told us about the family we were going to help today–they have a one year old who has cancer. So about 10 of us went over to their house and just did a bunch of odd things that needed doing to try to help out. It was fun kind of working and talking with the guys.

The senior pastor, Wayne, was along, and he was a reaonably kewl guy, but he did try at least 4 times in our conversation to convince me to come to some event at their church. So that didn’t feel very … excellent. I find it especially … unfortunate since just now looking up their web site I see they have this almost at the top of their main page

Secondly, by being friendly, but without being annoyingly aggressive. Some people want to check out a church without being “cornered”, and we respect that.
I didn’t even want to check out their church–I said right up front “I don’t go to church”. Now I feel like maybe I was somehow wrongly taking advantage of the opportunity they provided for me to fulfill my service task for this week while failing to allow for the implied associated … aggresive invitations. Or maybe I’m excessively sensitive. Hmmmm….

(some) christians make me nervous. Like again, on Calvary Fellowship web site, in the “our purpose” section, right at the top they say

Our purpose at Calvary Fellowship is to glorify God by pointing people to Jesus Christ, Who alone is sufficient for our every need.
Now not only is it monga wierd to capitilize pronouns referring to god, it also strikes me as very very strange to say of anything or anyone “who alone is sufficient for every need”. What does that mean exaclty? Because it seems to me that in order to say something like that, you either have to seriously wrest the word “sufficient”, or else you have to be brain dead (I mean as in a human vegetable–oh dear–I don’t mean to be crude–Eliza could help me out here–I mean literally completely cut off from almost all sensory experience or even consciousness) so you don’t see or feel the gargantuan enormitude of the need.
(I seem to have climbed onto a soap box. I’m stepping down now)

I think this might be related to HHJJ…

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Friday Videos

Two treats from Leonard Cohen--First--a cover of his "Hallelujah" by Jeff Buckley

And secondly, a very recent iteration of his "Tower of Song" by him and U2!

Today's video selection inspired by Jonathan at The Nautical File. Jonathan rocks. And his blog tends to make me hungry--a unique attribute among all the blogs I read.

The Iraq Study Group Report

WARNING: I am about to attempt to put a SHOULD on you. Don't say I didn't warn you.

It seems reasonable to me, in light of the fact that our government has spent 400 Billion of our dollars creating the current disaster zone in Iraq, that every American should read through the Iraq Study Group Report. It's only 160 pages. If you can't read the whole thing, at least read the letters from the co-chairs and the executive summary, which are pages 4-8, and the recommendations, which are from pages 33 to 62. Surely it's the least we can do to try to get a bit outside our Fox/CNN news, insular American heads. I suspect most of you will not do this. You'd rather go watch the football game, or whatever. Typical ugly americans, the lot of you. (my sincere apologies to all my non-american readers. I don't mean you.)

Here it is: The Iraq Study Group Report

My overall impression: 2 things:
1. The guys who wrote this report are bordering-on-insanely hopeful
2. Reading this report helps one to begin to get an understanding of just how much "we" bit off in the decision to invade iraq, and just how difficult the chewing has been and will continue to be.

A couple quotes:

There is no action the American military can take that, by itself, can bring about success in Iraq
While it is clear that the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is moderating the violence, there is little evidence that the long-term deployment of U.S. troops by itself has led or will lead to fundamental improvements in the security situation.
U.S. military forces, especially our ground forces, have been stretched nearly to the breaking point by the repeated deployments in Iraq, with attendant casualties (almost 3,000 dead and more than 21,000 wounded), greater difficulty in recruiting, and accelerated wear on equipment.
The number of refugees and internally displaced persons within Iraq is increasing dramatically.
All of our efforts in Iraq, military and civilian, are handicapped by Americans’ lack of
language and cultural understanding.

Dancing Bush--have fun

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Quiz results

My Results from the "Do You Want the Terrorists to Win" Quiz

Your 'Do You Want the Terrorists to Win' Score: 100%

You are a terrorist-loving, Bush-bashing, "blame America first"-crowd traitor. You are in league with evil-doers who hate our freedoms. By all counts you are a liberal, and as such cleary desire the terrorists to succeed and impose their harsh theocratic restrictions on us all. You are fit to be hung for treason! Luckily George Bush is tapping your internet connection and is now aware of your thought-crime. Have a nice day.... in Guantanamo!

Do You Want the Terrorists to Win?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

And here's the quiz results based on me answering the questions using my best guesses for the answers of a fictional character who is a sort of amalgamation of my extended family (I mean my FOO etc.--not Megan's family). Yet another reason to boycott Christmas, and it's ... associated gatherings of extended family.

Your 'Do You Want the Terrorists to Win' Score: 0%

Congratulations, Patriot! Wave your flag proudly, stand tall, and bask in the glory of George Bush's America. The terrorists will never win so long as there is a sufficient number of people like you out there. Never question, never doubt. You are on the right side. America's side. God's side. Rush Limbaugh has told you so. Rah rah, go Bush!!

Do You Want the Terrorists to Win?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

My year round wish list

My list of all the things I want during this season of the feast of the incarnation, and anytime.

1. I want to never again do any of the things after the doing of which I hate myself.
2. I want my granddad to be prosecuted for his crimes, and I want all my aunts, uncles, mum, and my nana to be emotionally healthy enough to testify against him in court.
3. I want my mum to be cured of cancer. Permanently.
4. I want God to come to me in a dream, like he did with Solomon, and say "okay, what do you want me to do for you?" and I want my answer to be something a good deal better than "How about a new porsche?". (and, by the way, also better than solomon's stupid ass answer)
5. I want my dad to be cured of heart disease, diabetes, chronic pain, and ... food addiction.
6. I want a fucking vaccine for malaria, and I want to see it made available to everyone who needs it.
7. I want Jeffrey Sachs to agree to be drafted to run for president of the United States.
8. I want the other 791 people on the list of the world's billionaires to follow the example of the first two people on this list, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, and use their (obviously) high intelligence levels to figure out how to best give away enormous chunks of their wealth.

What's on your wish list?

Monday, December 04, 2006

the dark side of christmas

I'm boycotting Christmas. It's something I want to do every year, and this year I can get away with it, because my lovely family is not here. Why don't Christians ever acknowledge the dark side of Christmas? (the flippant sarcastic benjamin wants to say "for the same reasons they don't acknowledge the dark side of anything--happy happy joy joy--jesus took my burdens and he rolled them in the sea, never to remember anymore etc. etc.") But what about this passage from Revelation 12(which is included in the Christian holy book!)

A great Sign appeared in Heaven: a Woman dressed all in sunlight, standing on the moon, and crowned with Twelve Stars. She was giving birth to a Child and cried out in the pain of childbirth. And then another Sign alongside the first: a huge and fiery Dragon! It had seven heads and ten horns, a crown on each of the seven heads. With one flick of its tail it knocked a third of the Stars from the sky and dumped them on earth. The Dragon crouched before the Woman in childbirth, poised to eat up the Child when it came. The Woman gave birth to a Son who will shepherd all nations with an iron rod. Her Son was seized and placed safely before God on his Throne. The Woman herself escaped to the desert to a place of safety prepared by God, all comforts provided her for 1,260 days. War broke out in Heaven. Michael and his Angels fought the Dragon. The Dragon and his Angels fought back, but were no match for Michael.

Just try not to picture a 10 horned seven headed dragon in the delivery room, hanging out to feast on ... well, you get the picture.

And this one from Matthew 2

Herod, when he realized that the scholars had tricked him, flew into a rage. He commanded the murder of every little boy two years old and under who lived in Bethlehem and its surrounding hills. (He determined that age from information he'd gotten from the scholars.) That's when Jeremiah's sermon was fulfilled:

A sound was heard in Ramah,
weeping and much lament.
Rachel weeping for her children,
Rachel refusing all solace,
Her children gone,
dead and buried.

I think we let this go because we've heard it too often. Try to picture ... George Bush personally ordering the slaughter of hundreds of 2 year old children because he wants to make sure he maintains his power and wealth. oh, wait a minute ...

What about the fact that while we happily spend enough money to finally put all the retailers in the black for the year, mostly on total crap which we don't need, 750,000 people worldwide will die of starvation in the month of December?

I dare you to choose not to buy any christmas presents this year, and figure out how much you *would* have spent on christmas presents, and then give just half that figure to the social justice agency of your choice. and if you can't think of any, see some of the ones listed under "areas of moral clarity" to the right.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

My beautiful wife and wonderful children have left me

for seven weeks so that Megan can attend her sister Rachel's wedding and they can all hang out in sunny Port Macquarie, Australia with Megan's lovely family over Christmas (and maybe go swimming on Christmas afternoon at lovely lighthouse beach, where Megan and I were wed in 2000. It's in the distance in the photo). If you pray, please pray that all our relationships will be sustained and strengthened during this time, and that I will use the time here alone wisely and productively. Thankyou

Mark Driscoll apologizes, Protest called off

Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church, met with protest organizer Paul Chapman and other concerned leaders on Thursday night. He has said he is sorry about the hurt his words have caused and realizes he needs to stop using such inflammatory language, he has been removed as religion columnist for the Seattle Times, and the protest Sunday has been called off.
Read Mark's blog entry
Read protest organizer Paul Chapman's blog entry

Friday, December 01, 2006

Friday Videos

The Meatrix

PMS survival tips